Let me start by telling you that I am not a massage therapist; I do, however, work with a whole slew of them. Pretty amazing people, if I do say so. I also happen to be a pretty serious consumer of massage—not just because I work with massage therapists, but because I have experienced some pretty incredible health benefits as a result of massage, and—to be frank—I’m not about to give them up.
But massage is just pampering! you protest. Well, it is, but it is a whole lot more than that as well. Yes, it feels spectacular; and, yes, it allows me the opportunity to relax on occasion, but it has also alleviated my migraines, reduced my back pain, and kept me a whole lot more sane amidst sometimes overwhelming everyday stresses.
So, when you feel like you’re simply relaxing during a massage, as you revel in the luxurious calm of a few moments to yourself, let me tell you what you’re really getting:
- Massage has shown itself to be remarkably effective reducing the stress hormones in the blood (and this after only one 45-minute session!)
- Massage decreases cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions
- Massage boosts the level of white blood cells in the body (the ones that fight infection!)
- Massage releases a number of feel-good hormones associated with stress-relief and feelings of euphoria
- Massage improves circulation throughout the body
- And, perhaps most remarkably, there is emerging but strong evidence that massage is effective in reducing both acute and chronic pain
Of course, your next question is: If it does all of this, why in the world doesn’t my insurance cover it? And why aren’t we all getting it, all the time? The answer is complex, but it’s safe to say that insurance companies aren’t as quick to progress as we’d sometimes like. Additionally, because popularity of massage has largely fueled recent studies into its health benefits, these studies are only beginning to emerge. This doesn’t mean they are fringe or unreliable, but simply that many are still somewhat new; and insurance companies don’t react overnight in most cases.
As to the second question—why we aren’t all getting massage ALL THE TIME—your guess is as good as mine. I suspect it may be a matter of cost, which is to say that without insurance covering it, massage can feel like a pretty pricey healthcare cost; but, then, I always have to wonder about our willingness (as a society, at least) to whip up $5 a day for a latte while we forego a monthly massage with proven health benefits. What’s more, I can’t help but wonder if the idea of “pampering” has given massage a bad name (so to speak). What I mean here is that by constantly calling massage luxurious and grand, we’ve come to equate it with superfluous things that have little to do with actual health and wellness. Alas, that’s just my two cents.
I suppose what I’ve been getting at is this: Massage is, yes, luxurious, but it’s a whole heck of a lot more than that; most importantly, massage has demonstrated (through various scientific studies) that it has stunning, profound health benefits—benefits certainly as good as, if not better than, what some of those pills we take offer us. So, if you can afford it (even if it means cutting out a latte or two a week), do yourself a favor and book yourself a massage. I think—no, I know!—that you’ll be happy you did.